The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2602  Wednesday, 14 November 2001

From:           Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 13 Nov 2001 15:59:54 -0500
Subject:        Richard II 4.1.236-41

I agree with both Emma and Paul that Richard "plays" at being king, and
I'd add that both the stage and the theatre audience clearly sense this
fact.  In contrast, it doesn't take long before both we and those on the
stage begin thinking of Bolinbroke as king, even though he is not --
yet. The first part of 4.1 is a good example. Even Carlyle accepts
Bolingbroke as de facto king; it's only when he tries to become king de
jure that the bishop objects.

Why is this so? One explanation is that Bolinboke, unlike Richard, draws
strength and resolve from the land of England. Whereas Richard thinks
that HE grants favors to England's land (3.2.8-11), Bolingbroke feels
that only England's land can sustain him:

        Then England's ground, farewell. Sweet soil, adieu.
        My mother and my nurse, that bears me yet!

Richard has no where to "ground" himself, so to speak, and thus can only
be a player king that falls apart whenever adversity strikes.
Bolingbroke, on the other hand, can withstand adversity because he is
rooted in England's very soil.  It's like the refrain from the musical
"Oklahoma": "Oh, we belong to the land! And the land we belong to is
grand! O-O-O klahoma, where the wind etc., etc."

--Ed Taft

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